House shopping can be a very exciting time in your life – but it can also be very stressful. There are a number of factors to consider when looking for your perfect home, and you may be thrilled to find one that fits all your criteria. But, before you sign those papers, it’s important to check out every inch of the property. You know you need a professional inspection, but there are still some things that are commonly overlooked, which can cost you thousands of dollars in the long run. Here are five things to look for when house shopping that you may not have considered.
- Look up at the gutters
Gutters are an out of sight, out of mind thing for most homeowners. Most won’t think about them until there is a major problem that needs attention. But that’s just playing with fire.
When looking to purchase a home, make sure the gutters look to be in good condition. Are they clogged with leaves and debris? Does it look like the siding is stained from water overflowing? These aren’t good signs.
Look for a house with gutters that are clean and protected with a system like LeafFilter, as well as downspouts that lead away from the foundation. If the gutters on your dream home aren’t in good shape, it may lead to serious damage like basement and roof leaks, so you’ll want to negotiate having them fixed and protected with LeafFilter before signing any papers.
- Figure out the driveway situation
You may not think to pay much attention to the driveway, but this is an extremely important part of the home. Does it lead to a busy road? If so, check to see if there’s a turnaround so you don’t have to put yourself in danger backing out. If one doesn’t already exist, negotiate that into your offer.
Also check to see if it’s a shared driveway (which will sometimes be listed as a common driveway). Real estate mogul Bill Gassett says this will come with its own set of pros and cons, like certain rules, limited parking, and possible impacts on resale value. Ask yourself whether the driveway situation is livable or if it will drive you crazy in the long run before closing.
- Check for drainage problems
You’ll want to check out the property at different times of the day and in different types of weather. Stop by after a good rainstorm and take a look around the property. Is there standing water? This may indicate problems like poor yard drainage or sewer issues. Or, it can mean even bigger problems – like you’re in a FEMA flood zone. Standing water around the home can lead to cracks in the foundation and eventual flooding, and can even cause sinkholes. Not to mention the higher insurance prices that come along with these issues. Yikes.
If you’re house hunting in the winter, it may be difficult to witness any problems. You might be able to witness drainage issues if you’ve had a recent thaw and re-freeze, which can lead to patches of ice in the yard. You might also be able to tell if there’s a warped fence or if a shed seems to be a little off kilter.
No matter what time of year you decide to house hunt, you can always ask the inspector to scope the yard drains to see if there are any sewage issues. Any abnormalities, from problems with the sewer pipes to evidence of standing water, should be noted, and repairs should be negotiated.
- Check water quality
Taking into consideration recent findings in many states of unsafe levels of water contaminants, like lead, it is extremely important to check water quality when purchasing a home. Water contamination can lead to many serious health issues, so you’ll want to protect yourself and your family from any type of exposure. You can usually find free water testing kits at any home improvement store, which makes it easy to figure out water quality.
You may also want to note whether the house has hard or soft water. If you’re dealing with hard water, which contains a lot of minerals, know that cleaning may be a bit of a pain – especially if you can’t stand spots of your dishes and windows. It can also be tough on hair and skin. On the other hand, soft water, which only contains sodium ions and no other minerals, can kill plants and can cause soil to lose nutrients.
No matter how perfect a home seems, if it has unsafe levels of water contaminants, avoid it at all costs. If you’re dealing with hard water, consider whether you’d eventually like Brita filters on all your faucets or if a whole house filtration system sounds appealing, and calculate that into your offer.
- Introduce yourself to the neighbors
The last thing you want is to find yourself next to neighbors you can’t stand. If you’re serious about the house, take the time to check in with the neighbors. You can garner a lot of information this way.
While first impressions aren’t everything, you should get a good feel for how you’ll get along. Get them talking, and ask for the inside scoop about the neighborhood. Be prepared to learn about good things – like the annual block party where everyone has fun together – and bad things – like a recent string of break-ins or a rampant feral cat problem. Take some time to consider all this newfound knowledge so you can make a fully informed decision.
Buying a house is perhaps the biggest investment you’ll ever make. House hunting can be an emotional time, but don’t let it get the best of you. What seems to be a dream home now may turn into a nightmare later, so thoroughly check every crack and crevice before you make your final decision.
If you’ve already been through the buying process, what do you wish you’d checked before buying your home? If you’re a first time home buyer, what else would you like to know? Tell us in the comments!